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Placing Ancient Texts: The Rhetorical and Ritual Use of Space

Story imageAn Interdisciplinary Conference at Princeton University
Conference Co-Organizers: Mika Ahuvia and Alex Kocar, Department of Religion
Faculty Sponsor: Moulie Vidas, Department of Religion
This conference will bring together faculty and advanced graduate students from Religion, Classics, History, Near Eastern Studies, and Archaeology to engage with a central methodological question: what difference does “place” make in how we interpret ancient texts? 

Location: Fine Hall

Date/Time: 03/23/14 at 4:30 pm - 03/25/14 at 6:00 pm

In other words, how does our understanding of an incantation bowl, an invocation manual, or a liturgical poem change when we ask: where were they composed, with whom were they used, and where were they ultimately installed or discarded? How is the interpretation of ritual or liturgical language affected by its location in a physical space as well as its particular social and institutional dimensions?

Moreover, we recognize that place is more than just the physical setting of a text; it can also encompass its imagined contexts as well.  Thus, we are interested in how and to what end place was rhetorically constructed through ancient texts.  What can we deduce about social boundaries and ethical expectations based on how ancient authors and practitioners deployed imagined space(s)?  What is the relationship between the rhetorical construction of place and the formation of group identity?  And lastly, how did ancient authors make use of imagined space(s) in both inter and intra-communal disputes?  See, for example, the attempts by both second temple Jewish sectarians and early Christians to rhetorically describe and thereby lay claim to the prestige and authority of the heavenly temple. 

Overall, our conference explores two related approaches to text and place, shedding light both on the (probable) physical settings of text and the imagined spaces that texts create. Ultimately, by considering the role of place we will attempt to situate and contextualize various ancient texts.

To encourage further research into this subject after our conference, we will create a website that shares a database of the provenance of magical texts, a crucial starting point for future research. Also, the two graduate student conference organizers will edit the conference papers and submit a book proposal for publication.

Category: Conference

Department: Co-sponsored events